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Food for thoughtOpinion

Communities are central to conservation

By September 10, 2020 No Comments

Earlier this week saw the release of the Edinburgh Declaration on post-2020 global biodiversity framework, a bold call to action urging Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity to work more closely with communities in order to meet 20 biodiversity goals set out in the Aichi accord, signed 10 years ago in in Nagoya, Japan.

The vision set out in the post-2020 global biodiversity framework of “Living in harmony with nature”, and the 2030 mission as set out in the Zero Draft document make one thing pretty clear.

Conserving biodiversity, for people and the planet, cannot happen without people.

For me, the past few years have been pretty key in re-shaping what conservation truly is. The principal top-down conservationist architype, imposed by scientists and NGOs for decades, has been replaced by measures that include the rights and needs of local communities. Placing humans within ecosystems, rather than apart from them, is key if we are to live in harmony with nature. Back in 2013, my initial visions for what Project Seagrass should exist to achieve were purely natural. Not for people, but for seagrass sake. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with being so passionate about an organism that you simply don’t want to see it lost. But what I missed and what I failed to see back then was how important seagrass meadows were to communities.

The more time I’ve spent with communities that live by and utilise seagrass meadows, the more I’ve realised how we as humans have re-shaped nature. We’ve become a central part of the ecosystem. In some ways, our goals to return nature to a “pristine” state is naïve. We’re blind to the fact we don’t really know what pristine is. But, more worryingly, our view of a pristine environment, is one without humans. This why I now focus on evidencing this with my own research, showing just how central communities are to conservation and sustainability goals, and how ignoring them actually undermines conservation and sustainability goals themselves.

It’s all well and good setting time-bound targets and making specific promises and commitments. These are useful as motivational goals to help drive action in tackling biodiversity loss, but what has been holding us up, what has been putting on the brakes, is our inability to recognise people as part of the solution. The Edinburgh Declaration on post-2020 global biodiversity framework recognises this, and why I fundamentally support its call to action.

At Project Seagrass, this has been on our mind lately. Without the partnerships we’ve made with communities, our projects could not be possible. Seagrass Ocean Rescue for example is just as much communities doing conservation as it is conservation for communities.

We’ll be build on this as we move forward with the post-2020 global biodiversity framework.

Benjamin Jones

Author Benjamin Jones

Ben's a founding director of Project Seagrass and is currently undertaking a PhD at Stockholm University where he is investigating the role of seagrass meadows and their associated fauna in providing poverty alleviation.

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